Even as you read this, it may well be that the 3 Indonesian Islamist militants who have been convicted over the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people have already been executed.
The Indonesian government has already signed off the execution of bomber ringleader Imam Samudra and his two henchmen, brothers Amrozi and Mukhlas.
These three Jamilah Islamiah members were not the Islamic warriors they like to think they have been. They were nothing more than cowardly murderers whose victims were mainly women and children.
However, the dilemma lies not with Indonesia but with Australia which suffered the heaviest toll in the 2002 cold blooded murders.
Australia as a nation has abolished the death sentence and has frequently spoken out against man’s ultimate punishment, State sanctioned executions.
Yet in the pending execution of Samudra, Ambrozi and Mukhlas, the Australian PM, Kevin Rudd, has deftly tap danced away from the traditional Australian Labour Party ideological stand against the death sentence.
Kevin Rudd knows he wouldn’t survive politically if he speaks out against the death sentences of those 3 convicted Bali bombing murderers.
Is that then the Australian dilemma?
No, the dilemma lies in the unfortunate fact that a number of young Australian drug smugglers caught by Indonesian authorities are awaiting the death sentence as well, and Australia has appealed for their pardon.
Australian civil activists and even some Labour ministers have lambasted the Australian government for not being consistent on its stand against the death sentence, where it would seem to other nations (like Indonesia) that Australia would only protest against the cruel State sanctioned killings when Australian citizens were/are involved.
Some years ago, when an Australian drug smuggler, Nguyen Van Tuong, only in his early 20’s when arrested, was sentenced to death by the Singaporean government, then-PM John Howard refused, yes, refused to appeal for clemency though there was domestic urgings by churches and NGOs for the Aussie PM to make a personal appeal to his Singapore counterpart.
Howard refused to do so.
I thought he was hypocritical in stating that Australians were opposed to the death sentence, and that he believed Nguyen should not be executed because of his previous clean record and mitigating circumstances, and yet in the same breath, stating he won’t make a personal appeal for Nguyen.
Being a political animal, his decision was of course based on home politics.
Then, his far greater insincerity showed through, when to the horrors of those who had appealed, he added words to his refusal which were virtually fatal for Nguyen. Howard stated in unambiguous terms that Nguyen's execution would not hurt Australia's relationship with Singapore.
… which could only be read as an indirect message to Singapore to go ahead with the hanging of Nguyen. It was the final nail in Nguyen’s coffin.
Many Australians compared, or rather contrasted the Howard’s government’s disdainful and dismissive treatment of Nguyen Van Tuong with that of high support for Schappelle Corby when the latter was arrested by the Indonesian government for the same crime, smuggling drugs.
Three years ago in a post titled PM Howard Tiptoed Thro' The Tulips I wrote the following of Howard:
… he is however, is a very calculating politician who is very conscious and careful not to offend the more conservative elements of Australian public […]
Howard is very much governed by his perception of where the voters are, making him the most consummate politician, and possibly explaining why he continues as a popular prime minister for so long […]
Also read my Extracts from the ‘Death of Reason’!
Meanwhile in Malaysia, I was reliably informed ;-) that some Muslims don’t support the death sentence for Ahmad Najib Aris, the convicted rapist-murderer of Canny Ong Lay Kian. These people believe that a Muslim, regardless of his crimes, should not be executed for the mere death of an infidel.
We do not know yet the decision of the Federal Court in last month’s appeal by the convicted murderer-rapist, but I wonder whether Ahmad Aris will get away with his appeal on compassionate grounds that (I read this somewhere) he has children etc.
Should the Federal Court show compassion and commute his death sentence?
Please don’t answer … because I have the only answer for such a crime or any such crimes ...
... we must NOT impose a death sentence on anyone.
In this regard I had also protested against the execution of a Malaysian Islamist militant for treason. I had argued what value would there be to Malaysia in executing the man?
Similarly I would argue against the execution of Ahmad Aris. Yes, lock him up for life but do not debase ourselves by sanctioning his execution.
Apart from death being an irrevocable sentence, where we cannot make subsequent amends for mistakes in and by the legal process, there is also the question of values, of our humanity, of reverence for God’s creation.
Whether the murderer is a Muslim or non-Muslim, drug smuggler, Islamist bomber, American or Israeli uniformed massacrers, or the victims were Malays, Chinese, Indians, whites, blacks, whoever, my personal stand is to leave out completely the draconian brutal capital punishment.
For those religious, I say do not usurp God’s will and prerogative. For those secular minded, I say we must not destroy a human life for it only debases our humanity.
At a national level, it has to do with a nation having higher values and not subordinating itself to institutionalized murder. It has to do with our not stooping down to brutal punishment, which has been proven not to stop crimes. It has to do with our refusing to succumb to caveman's mentality, that silly ‘an eye for an eye’ because if we do, soon everyone in this world will be blind (if they aren’t already).
Please read my post on the death of Nguyen Van Tuong titled Not a Martyr, Not a Hero, but a Human Being which discussed people’s views that State sanctioned killings ‘diminish’ us.
In SE Asia, wealthy Singapore has, by the size of its population and number of executions, the highest execution rate in the world, exceeding even those of China or the USA. See also:
(1) In a Perfect Country!
(2) Home and Free
... whilst economically poor Philippines has (for the second time in 2006) abolished the death penalty. The Filipinos had actually abolished the death penalty before in 1987 but restored the sentence in late 1993 for heinous crimes such as murder, child rape and kidnapping. But it has taken the high path of morality again.
In this respect, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, especially George Bush, the Singapore government, and our own Malaysian government have all been failures.
(1) Forgotten But Unfortunately Not Entirely ...
(2) Sorry We Killed You
(3) Brotherhood of Death - Victims & Perpetrators
(4) Hot Babe: "No More Hot Seat!"